Honoring those who died in the Vietnam War and those who survived it is something Charles Foster has wanted to do for a long time.
A retired resident of Barling, Foster will host a ceremony that will pay tribute to families who had loved ones give their lives in this conflict at 2 p.m. Sept. 28 at VFW Post 8845 in Fort Smith. Families of deceased service members who lived in the local area will be presented with a 11x14 matted and framed certificate. Foster will also recognize and thank those who survived the war.
“It is time that we as Americans honor those who fought, survived or sacrificed their lives in the Vietnam War,” Foster says in a news release. “What these brave soldiers went through and seen, no one should ever have to. These brave men and women deserve the utmost highest honor that we can give them and that is to recognize them and thank them for their service and sacrifice.”
The idea for this ceremony came to Foster after he watched a documentary about the Vietnam War in January. He said while searching the internet, he came across The Virtual Wall, an online version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. This provided Foster pictures and information concerning the military services of 60 Arkansans from 22 cities and towns within a 60 mile area of Fort Smith and Barling who died during the war. He went on to visit the actual memorial in May, and did paper and pencil rubbings of these service members’ names.
“I had a friend of mine go with me,” Foster said. “He took me up there, I stayed with him in Virginia. He had to help me with a few of them because my knees and back kind of give out on me, and then the high ones that I couldn’t reach, the people there with the wall had to use the ladder, wouldn’t let me use it, so I would say probably … 90, 95 percent (of the rubbings) I did myself.”
All of these things will be included on the certificates Foster plans to present to the families of these fallen service members. Foster said he is currently in the process of trying to get in contact with them to invite them to the ceremony, as well as certain officials. Among the latter are Gov. Asa Hutchinson, U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, U.S. Sen. John Boozman and the mayors of the 22 cities and towns. Foster is also spreading the word about the event via Facebook, having established a public group there called, “Fallen Arkansas Veterans of the Vietnam War (FAVVW).”
Jeff Harness, post commander of VFW Post 8845, said Foster contacted him about hosting this ceremony about three months ago. The event will be held in the post’s banquet hall at no charge to Foster, with Foster also being allowed to use its kitchen.
Foster said in the release he is currently in need of certain items for the event. These include, among others, printing of 60 11x14 inch pictures, frames, matting, invitations, envelopes, brochures/programs, signs, posters, stamps, envelopes, thank you notes/envelopes, flowers, potted plants, patriotic banners and ribbons for the ceremony stage, refreshments such as coffee, tea, cookies and bottled water, ice, small plates and napkins. Residents interested in donating items, as well as volunteer, are asked to email Foster at firstname.lastname@example.org. Monetary contributions for the event, which will all go toward needed items, can be dropped off at VFW Post 8845.
All leftover funds from the event will be donated to certain organizations, including the VFW National Home for Children and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in Washington D.C. Leftover material donations will go to VFW Post 8845 and VFW Post 1322 in Van Buren.